23 November 2012

Plain Incentives

Written by Published in Good Brands

By rewarding businesses for providing sustainable alternatives to the way their companies are run, this non-profit organisation from San Francisco looks set to make some serious waves. Here’s how it works

As is the case with most pioneering ideas, the model behind the Carrotmob movement is very simple. Representatives from the organisation approach a business and guarantee them a huge crowd of eager consumers (a Carrotmob) over a particular period of time. In return, the business agrees to use a percentage of the profit generated by the influx of buyers to make a previously decided positive environmental change to the way it is run. This can be something as simple as fitting the company with more energy efficient lighting, offering replacements for plastic bags – anything as long as the agreed profit is procured.

Harnessing the power of the collective buyer to influence solid, green change in business, the Carrotmob model aims to benefit all parties involved in their campaigns. ‘Consumers benefit because, by purchasing things they would have bought anyway, they get to “vote with their money”. Businesses benefit because they see a bump in sales. A portion of the increased sales funds the efficiency improvements’, explains Carrotmob founder Brent Schulkin on one of their entertaining promotional videos.

Essentially, this is the opposite of a boycott; a move away from the traditional punitive system of taxes and fines. And it’s working! Carrotmobs have now taken place in the US, Budapest, France, Germany, and Australia, and on 24 November, the Sustainable City Showcase in New Zealand will welcome the county’s first Carrotmob.

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Profits from existing campaigns have varied from $100 to $31,000. The latter amount was raised in the small independent Californian coffee shop, Thanksgiving Coffee. If, over a 20-day run the Carrotmob campaign generated £150,000, Thanksgiving Coffee agreed to put in motion plans to import their coffee from Nicaragua using wind-powered sailing ships rather than the large bunker-fuel-burning, pollution-belching container ships currently used.

While that target was missed by a considerable amount, Thanksgiving Coffee was still influenced by the Carrotmob’s efforts. As per the agreement, they used the profit to support climate change adaption and provide clean cook-stoves to their coffee farming partners at the Peace Kawomera Cooperative in Uganda. What’s more, due to the support they received from both the general public and the coffee industry during the Carrotmob campaign, they plan to continue looking into the possibility of wind-powered shipping.

And that is why this movement is going places. It is a serious push for global change presented to the world in a charming, light-hearted fashion. ‘Everyone’s a winner’ is the message, a greener world for all is the goal. Encouragingly, using the carrot and not the stick – rewarding sustainable progress rather than punishing its absence – is a method that appears to be catching on.

Join the Carrotmob yourself! See carrotmob.org for more information 


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